Teaching Statement

Teaching Statement

My teaching philosophy can be succinctly encapsulated in a few words: learning economics in the classroom should be conducive to students thinking outside the box. Students should be encouraged to confront and cope with economic topics by thinking beyond the scope of their majors. For example, at the end of my principles course, a student should be able to confidently talk about how a financial crisis affects a typical taxpayer even if she is a computer science major. I treat every student as a qualified citizen in the future with a global view. Therefore, I feel responsible for equipping them with essential tools and mindsets to deal with new challenges. I strive to do so by adopting an even mix of theoretical concepts, empirical analysis, and their relevance to current events. In my experience, students who see a concept or an idea be borne out by evidence (which would be better coming from occurrences in daily life) generally internalize and articulate it more successfully.

My teaching experience enable me to incorporate my philosophy into a portfolio of courses. In my current position at SCSU, I treasure the opportunity to enhance my teaching portfolio with graduate mecroeconomic theory and business & economic forecasting. Being the only macroeconomics instructor at BSC, I was delight to instruct all three undergraduate macro courses and was proud to propose a new course, “Time Series Visualization and Forecasting.” As an instructor at UT Dallas, I have taught Principles courses with full responsibility for curriculum and examination for five semesters. The largest class size reaches 90 students, and evaluation keeps improving every semester up to 4.75 out of 5. As a GTA.

I model my own teaching after those who left a profound influence on me – mainly those instructors who succeeded in conveying the importance of concepts with sufficient historical background and empirical relevance to our daily life. To achieve this, I use a combination of approaches, which involve lecture, discussion, and feedback:

As to the lecture, I follow the structure of my selected textbook but frequently extend beyond, especially for some historical content and practical applications. The history of economics is a roadmap for encountering, solving, and reflecting on economic issues. Without a proper introduction of the social background, I may merely iterate an economic concept rather than teach a lesson in macroeconomics to the students. For example, the story of pouring milk into rivers and a picture of empty streets during the Great Depression facilitates students’ comprehension of some critical features of Keynesian economics. I believe the first step in tackling an economic issue is a thorough review of the challenges that our ancestors have been going through.

I foster discussion in class with two approaches. One is that I pose some general questions to the class and encourage students to respond. Usually, these questions are on broad topics such as trade wars, financial crises, among others. The majority of students may have some words about how those abstract terms relate to their experiences. I insert the appropriate economic concepts into students’ articulations but refrain from interrupting the flow of thoughts.

Furthermore, I cultivate interactions via the group discussion. My strategy is to embrace the excellence of students’ responses. For instance, I once had a group discussion on how to deal with an adverse oil price shock. I was amazed by an answer regarding geopolitics in the middle-east. Although it might be less than relevant to the topic at hand, I believed everyone, including me, are benefitted from this new perspective by thinking out of the box. My rule of thumb for discussion is to listen and encourage listening in the class. I learned from my students about better ways to relate difficult concepts with daily life examples.

Last but not least, I always make sure that students can reach me. Since the bargaining of points or chances of exam retake is ruled out from the get-go by a detailed announcement in the first class period, I receive abundant, meaningful feedbacks about my course through emails and face-to-face communication. This feedback ensures the quality of my course and my proper use of students’ time.

I am constantly looking to improve my teaching abilities. Observing classes of other more experienced faculty and discussing teaching tools and approaches with them are very helpful. I love teaching because, in my opinion, it is a lot like research. To me, teaching a class is like writing a paper; it is a very organic thing. It often takes on a life of its own. It evolves in ways I cannot always predict and, as it unfolds and grows, I feel I am developing and learning, which at the end of the day is what has drawn me to a life in academia.

Zhengyang (Robin) Chen
Assistant Professor in Economics

My research interests include Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics, Time Series Analysis and Financial Economics.